An apparatus, and its accompanying method, for reducing the drag of flows over a surface includes arrays of small disks and sensors. The arrays are embedded in the surface and may extend above, or be depressed below, the surface, provided they remain hydraulically smooth either when operating or when inactive. The disks are arranged in arrays of various shapes, and spaced according to the cruising speed of the vehicle on which the arrays are installed. For drag reduction at speeds of the order of 30 meters/second, preferred embodiments include disks that are 0.2 millimeter in diameter and spaced 0.4 millimeter apart. For drag reduction at speeds of the order of 300 meters/second, preferred embodiments include disks that are 0.045 millimeter in diameter and spaced 0.09 millimeter apart. Smaller and larger dimensions for diameter and spacing are also possible. The disks rotate in the plane of the surface, with their rotation axis substantially perpendicular to the surface. The rotating disks produce velocity perturbations parallel to the surface in the overlying boundary layer. The sensors sense the flow at the surface and connect to control circuitry that adjusts the rotation rates and duty cycles of the disks accordingly. Suction and blowing holes can be interspersed among, or made coaxial with, the disks for creating general three-component velocity perturbations in the near-surface region. The surface can be a flat, planar surface or a nonplanar surface, such as a triangular riblet surface. The present apparatus and method have potential applications in the field of aeronautics for improving performance and efficiency of commercial and military aircraft, and in other industries where drag is an obstacle, including gas and oil delivery through long-haul pipelines.